Marina Danoyan: “We have created a small and warm Armenia in Finland where it is cold”

Hayern Aysor’s correspondent sat down for an interview with Vice-President of the Finland-Armenia Association Marina Danoyan, who was hosted at the RA Ministry of Diaspora.

Karine Avagyan: Marina, as far as I know, there is no large and organized Armenian community in Finland, particularly in Helsinki. Is that true?

Marina Danoyan: The community is small due to the small number of Armenians, but we have two organizations. The Finland-Armenia Association has been around for about four years. The founders are Abgar Margaryan and Hrach Zakaryan. There has been a community, but it began to function in an organized manner four years ago.

Karine Avagyan: Let’s talk about your Association and its mission and objectives.

Marina Danoyan: The priority objectives of our Association are to preserve the Armenian identity and establish cultural ties between Armenia and Finland. One of the other objectives was to establish an Armenian school, which we already have. I can’t call it a school. It is more of a club that teaches the children Armenian and presents episodes of the history of the Armenian people. What really helped me develop the curriculum was my participation in the courses of the 2016 “Diaspora” Summer School Program of the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia. Our textbooks have been provided by the Ministry of Diaspora. The children come to the club with pleasure and work hard to learn their native language. We have created a small Armenia in Finland.

Karine Avagyan: You left Armenia where it is sunny. Was it easy for you to adapt to the cold weather in Finland?

Marina Danoyan: After finishing my studies in Armenia, I studied in France, after which my husband and I moved to Finland. Every country has its geographical and climatic features. In Finland, it is cold, and in the months of winter, it is dark. You can’t compare it with Armenia where it is sunny and bright, but we have also adapted to the weather in Finland. Of course, I miss the springtime and autumn in Armenia…I have come to take a little bit of the sun from Armenia.

Karine Avagyan: Marina, what events do you organize within the community and where do you hold them?

Marina Danoyan: We don’t have an Armenian cultural center. To organize events, we collaborate with various cultural organizations and lease an area. We lease an area within a Finnish school for the Armenian language club.

The Lutheran Church or the Orthodox Church grant an area to the Armenian community for rituals. The Armenian Apostolic Church has already been registered, and we will most likely have a church or chapel soon. We have a representation of the Armenian Apostolic Church and collaborate with the representation. We help each other organize events. I must also say that spiritual representative of Sweden, Father Yeghishe visits Finland and serves Armenian liturgies from time to time.

Karine Avagyan: How are the relations between the Finns and the Armenians? Do the Finns know about Armenia and the Armenians?

Marina Danoyan: I love the Finns and have great respect for them because they are extremely kind and diligent. They treat other nations with great respect. Surprisingly, most of them know a lot about Armenia and the Armenians. This year, our Association participated in the cultural festival that is organized in Helsinki every year. We represented Armenia for the first time. We had a wonderful Armenian pavilion that sparked the Finns’ interest as it showcased the sites worth seeing in Armenia. There were also gifts from Armenia. The visitors were also treated to tasty pastries made by Grand Candy. Many Finns would approach us and ask us about Armenia and share stories about their trips to Armenia. In Finland, there is a wonderful clergyman, Father Serafim, who knows Armenia and the Armenians well and has written books about Armenia in Finnish. He organizes trips to Armenia. Finns visiting Armenia once want to visit again.

Karine Avagyan: Please, tell us about your students’ successes and the incentives that they have received through the competitions organized by the Ministry of Diaspora.

Marina Danoyan: Our children participated in the “I Love You, My Homeland” painting competition. We didn’t know there was going to be an award ceremony. We simply participated and sent the paintings to Armenia. A month ago, we were surprised when we received an e-mail stating that our children’s paintings had received 2 First Prizes and that the creators of the other paintings had received certificates that were granted so solemnly and beautifully at the RA Ministry of Diaspora. I hadn’t told my 5-year-old daughter, Sofia Boyajyan about the competition. She always paints. In kindergarten, she had painted a picture of a parachute and her and her friend flying to Armenia. She had asked the nanny at the kindergarten to write the story of the painting in Finnish – she and her friend are flying to Armenia (during the flight, they see an Armenian flag waving in the air, my daughter understands the meaning, but her friend doesn’t; my daughter explains to her friend that it is the national flag of Armenia). That painting was also presented at the competition and won First Prize. Beniamin Harutyunyan, 10, won the 2nd Prize. He had painted a battlefield and soldiers…I would like to mention Emanuel Keshishyan, who was in Armenia with his parents during the award ceremony and received his prize. I would like to add that our children participated in the “Letter to a Soldier” initiative with great pleasure and excitement and wrote illustrated letters.

Karine Avagyan: I wish you good luck, dear Marina! I wish that teaching more Armenian children Armenian and maintaining close cultural ties between Armenia and Finland are always the priority objective that lies at the core of your pro-national activities.

Karine Avagyan

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